Black Label Society: Grimmest Hits (Entertainment One Music)
Zakk is back with number ten and to be fair there are once again few surprises but that doesn’t make this a bad release. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” certainly comes to mind and Grimmest Hits, which sees recording debuts for rhythm guitarist Dario Lornia and drummer Jeff Fabb join Wylde and bassist Jo DeServio is a sultry smoking affair. Whilst the album doesn’t have the immediate crunch of The Blessed Hell Ride, Mafia or Order Of The Black, what it does contain is the usual superb playing, massive riffs and a retro feel that allows Wylde to channel his love of Sabbath and Zeppelin.
There are Sabbath riffs galore, check out Disbelief (A National Acrobat) or the riff on All That Once Shined which is about as close to Electric Funeral as you can get; Bury Your Sorrow contains a Zeppelin chug that is immediate and opener The Betrayal is classic BLS with Wylde’s drawl and over the top soloing welcoming like an old friend you’ve not seen for a few years. BLS do the Southern ballad with style. The Only Words is just beautiful, perfect tempo with a stunning vocal performance from Wylde, the track emitting a lovely Allman Brothers vibe.
As well as the 70s riff-fest, Grimmest Hits moves closer to the the New Orleans Chug of heavyweights Down, with a far sludgier feel than in previous offerings, such as the slab crushing weight of A Love Unreal. Of course, BLS can still throw down with the best, nowhere better illustrated than Illusions Of Peace, where a meaty, foot stomping beat rips hard and heavy. Zakk and co. don’t reinvent the wheel but what they do is always solid. 8/10
Audrey Horne: Blackout (Napalm Records)
I’ve been waiting for this album for ages and oh yes, it’s delivered on all counts. Four years since Pure Heavy, Toschie and his band mates pick things off with style with the hard rock of This Is War, a rampaging beauty crammed full of super guitar and hooks a plenty. The pace continues with Audrevolution, another thumper before the classic rock soaked title track takes centre stage. This One slows things, a balanced semi ballad which contains stylish twin guitar. In fact, there are shades of Thin Lizzy on several tracks, such as California, as well as numerous other influences, such as the Deep Purple thunder on Light Your Way, which features a chunky Hammond organ riff and some Blackmore-esque guitar.
Think Fireball and you’ll be spot on. The Norwegians have increased their harmonies for this release and it works well throughout with the choruses receiving oomph. Whilst Blackout is generally classic rock in sound, it’s not at all dated. Satellite, for example, would fit snuggly on a modern rock release whilst Naysayer would nestle comfortably amongst recent Priest or Saxon albums. At the start of every year we steel ourselves for the good, the bad and the bloody awful. Blackout sets the bar very high indeed. Now, let’s have some time in the UK guys. 9/10
Hyborian: Vol. I (Season Of Mist)
For a debut album this six-track release is an absolute gem. Stuffed full of fat riffs, sludgy choruses and some memorable hooks, the band from Kansas City have really pushed hard. It is furious, rampant and thoroughly enjoyable. Sitting very much in the Mastodon/Red Fang style, the release is influenced by Robert E. Howard; the story based on an interstellar, extra-dimensional cloaked being called The Traveller, whose legend is told through the album.
Martin Bush’s vocals sit comfortably amongst the maelstrom which is served by his fuzzy guitar alongside band mates Ryan Bates (guitar, vocals), drummer Justin Rippeto and Anthony Diale (bass). Stand out track is the majestic six-minute Blood For Blood, a balls-out careering bull of a track, full of the heaviest stoner rock imaginable. If you like your stoner dirty and teetering on the edge of chaos, then join the Hyborian machine. It’s a fabulous ride. 8/10
Accuser: The Mastery (Metal Blade)
Now I must admit I’d only vaguely heard of the thrash monsters Accuser, despite the band having been around in some shape or form since 1986. The Mastery is their 11th album and despite containing only one original member in the shape of Frank Thoms (vocals and guitar), The Mastery has a feel of old school thrash combined with the groove and feel of current times. It’s an impressive head banger of an album, unsurprisingly bursting with massive riffs, several changes of both time, pace and style.
Thoms brutally gruff delivery suits the band perfectly whilst their all-out assault is sure to grab the attention of those who like their metal served with an extra portion of savage. With the inevitable German Thrash scene’s influences of Kreator, Destruction and Sodom all evident, as well as a huge Slayer presence, it’s the underpinning groove that makes the musical element of this band impressive. Check Of Mission: Missile, the imperious My Skin and the title track for serious heavy thrash. 7/10